2 November 2014

Rosie Wyatt was magnificent in Spine at the Soho Theatre

I often pick my theatre on the flimsiest of reasons because I have to make quick decisions on which ones to see from the myriad of temptations. The main reason for going to see Spine was that it starred Rossie Wyatt who had impressed me in Blink at the start of the year.

Rosie also impressed the audiences for Spine at the Edinburgh Festival where she picked up some acting awards.

I like the Soho Theatre too so my flimsy reason was starting to look pretty strong.

Not for the first time, the only performance that I could make was the final one and that meant driving back to Kingston from Dorset on a Sunday afternoon and then taking the bus/train/tube to Oxford Circus.

I got to the theatre in time to get a beer before positioning myself strategically by the door where the queue is always more of a huddle than a line. That good positioning and alertness meant that I was the second person up the stairs, the young lady who ran past me was obviously even keener than I was. It was a long way up to as we were in the rehearsal space on the top floor, Soho Upstairs, which is where we had been for Blink. The lady's rush was somewhat unnecessary and I sat next to her in the middle of the front-row in the central block.

Confronting me was a simple set adorned with piles of books. That was my first clue as to what Spine could be about.

Once everybody was settled in to the packed room, it was pleasingly sold out, Rosie walked on stage dressed casually and started to tell us her story. She was Amy a young woman with a difficult past, involving men and crime, and a brain.

Feeding that brain was pensioner Glenda (who we never saw) whose house this was with all the books.

Amy was the only character in the play and she spoke directly to us.

Her story swept swiftly from moments to simple humour (well, I found the idea of Glenda's husband dying while looking at a lingerie catalogue amusing) to darker times arguing with her family and committing burglaries with her boyfriend. Rosie captured these changing moods precisely with her voice and her loud body language.

Amy's story was, obviously, a reflection of the society that she lived in and this gave the play a welcome political edge. Glenda was particularly angry at the closure of libraries and Amy was unable to find a decent job.

The personal and the political stories combined to produce an ending that while quite predictable was also very satisfying.

Clara Brennan's play was clever, human and engrossing and Rosie's magnificent acting made it deeply personal and completely immersive. It was absolutely marvellous and easily worth all the effort it took to get there. My only regret was that Rosie disappeared at the end before I could tell her personally how much I had enjoyed her performance.

Spine was that good that I am tingling writing about it a few weeks later.

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